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Author, Donna Ashcroft shares with us (conclusion)

Q. Do you think we will see, in our lifetime, the total demise of paper books?

DA. No, I don’t think so. While digital books are usually cheaper and easier to store and buy, I think a lot of people still enjoy the way a paper book smells and feels. It’s more of an emotional experience. I receive a lot of messages from readers who want to know how to get hold of my books in physical form.

Daisy–the old lady

Q. What makes a writer great?

DA. For me anyone who can transport me from everyday life into a different world and make me lose myself is a great writer. Bringing people and situations to life on the page is a kind of magic.

Q. and the all-important: What does the process of going from “no book” to “finished book” look like for you?

One of this blogger’s favs

DA. I begin my novel by brainstorming the types of people I want in my story, what do they want, conflicts they might encounter and what do they need to learn?

Then I come up with a ‘hook’ or something that will draw readers in. I create ‘books’ of information about my stories which include pictures of my characters, location photographs (I find this helps me to really picture my setting and helps to make it real). I use a website call Pacemaker to plan my writing schedule ie when the deadline is, how many words I need to write each day to get the first draft completed on time. I generally write my first draft in three months, once I’m happy with it I deliver it to my editor.

Usually after a week I receive structural edits. These involve adding scenes/removing scenes/deepening conflict and addressing anything my editor things doesn’t work in the story. This tends to be the most major part of the editorial process. Sometimes my edits take a few days, but they can take up to a month. It all depends on how much work the book needs. After the structural edits are okay’d I work on line edits, then copy edits and then a proof read. The final stage of the process involves me reading through the final files before the book is created. Publication day is the end of the process – this involves promotion on social media, in newsletters and thanking people for support. I tend to end the day with a glass of something fizzy!

Q. How has your life experiences influenced your writing?

DA. Because my books are character driven, I think everyone I meet or speak to and everything that has happened to me influences my writing. I tap into

Dylan

experiences when I’m dealing with heartbreak or conflict in my novels. It’s not always the exact same experience, but the feelings are the same.

Q. Do you have children? If yes, how do you carve out ‘writing time’? 

DA. This is how I keep my two lovely teenagers from disturbing me mid flow (in truth: it doesn’t work and they still barge in). Seriously, I wouldn’t be without them. I can get a bit obsessive about my writing and end up stuck at my desk for hours so it does me good to have some company and distraction!

Q. What’s your down time look like?

DA. I read a lot, enjoy swimming, walking and classes at my local gym. I love networking with other writers and spending time with family and friends.

Q. Have you or do you want to write in another genre`?

DA. I love romance and don’t plan to change to another genre.

Q. Note to Self: (a life lesson you’ve learned.)

DA. If you want something in life, behave as if you already have it.
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Did you miss the beginning of this Interview?
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Coming soon!  August: Author, Jay Hartlove

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Interview with author, Donna Ashcroft

Donna Ashcroft declared she would be an author at the age of twelve and used to write voraciously. During her career, Donna worked in publishing, online retail and as a freelance copywriter until she started her family.  She had two children and finally decided she’d reached her “now or never” time. She joined the Romantic Novelists Association and started to write seriously in 2016. In 2018 (after penning a number of novels) she was offered a publishing contract by Bookouture and has been with them ever since. Her debut novel, Summer in the Castle Café was shortlisted for the RNA Debut Romantic Novel of the Year Award in 2019.

She says, “I love a happy ending and am never more content than when I’m escaping into a romance novel or movie. When I’m not reading or writing I’m probably swimming, or negotiating with my OH or teenagers about who is doing the washing up.”

Q. Where do you write? Do you have a special room, shed, barn, special space for your writing? (please provide a photo of you at work in your shed, room, closet, barn, houseboat….) Or tell us about your ‘dream’ work space.

DA. I work in my spare room. It’s a small space so we had to take the bed down and I have the headboards along one wall! I’ve tried to make it into a lovely space with a heart banner, plants and pictures of my novels. When the sun is shining though I love working outside in the garden. My ‘dream’ workspace would probably involve a pool and somewhere I can shelter from the sun but take a dip whenever I wanted to.

Q. Do you have any special rituals or quirks when you sit down to write? (a neat work space, sharpened #2 pencils, legal pad, cup of tea, glass of brandy, favorite pajamas, etc.)

DA. In the mornings I have to have coffee (multiple) and can’t start work without a caffeine hit. I also always have water on the go and drink plenty as the day progresses. I have hand cream on my desk as it’s good to just take a little time out sometimes to have a mindful moment as I’m applying it.

My office

Other must haves include pens, pretty notebooks and post it notes which I make notes on all the time! I also have a ball instead of a chair for when I’m working in an attempt to look after my back.

Q. Could you tell us something about yourself that we might not already know?

DA. I’ve been training to do a 1.4km open water swim since March – the swim is this weekend and I’m terrified but I always think it’s important to try  new challenges. I’m a qualified life coach and NLP Practitioner. I don’t practice but I think the learning experience was useful to understanding behaviour in both myself and others.

Q. What tools do you begin with? Legal pad, spiral notebook, pencils, fountain pen, or do you go right to your keyboard?

A daily walk with my friend’s dog Tiggy

DA. I usually like to make notes on a pretty notepad when I’m brainstorming but I then hop straight onto the keyboard.

Q. Do you have a set time each day (or night) to write?

DA. I’m a full-time writer so I write between 8am and 6pm on weekdays and sometimes I work in the mornings on weekends. I take regular breaks to refresh my mind and body.

Q. What’s your best advice to other writers for overcoming procrastination?

Heart banner in my office

DA. Treat writing like a profession. You can’t wait for your muse, you just have to get on with it. Often I’ve spent a day writing chapters I think are awful, but then I often discover a nugget in there that’s worth keeping. Writing is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration with a little talent thrown in.

 

Join us next week for Part 2 of this Interview
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Coming soon! July’s author interview with Donna Ashcroft.

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Review ~~ Dreaming of Flight by Catherine Ryan Hyde

5+ out of 5 stars  Book Review

 

Odd, loveable, quirky characters are sprinkled throughout this story. From the first page they  seduce and beguile the reader.

Stewie, a 10 year old boy (when we first meet him) is passively neglected by his overly taxed, older sister.  His Gam has recently died and as a way to stay connected to his much beloved grandmother, he adopts and takes over the care of her chickens.  During his ‘egg route’ he meets Marilyn, another grandma-type with the same rough edge as his Gam. 

And that’s where I’ll leave the spoiler alert.  The writing is done with the same brilliance we have come to expect from Catherine Ryan Hyde. Her turn of phrase is unapparelled.  Her balance of descriptive text and dialogue is near-perfect. And my readers know how too little dialogue irks me!  This will never happen in a Hyde book.  The characters are well thought out and deeply written. Hyde ‘shows’ you her characters; never tells you who and what they are. And who else could get a beautiful story out of a young boy and his chickens?

I highly recommend this book to my readers. If you loved Allie and Bea (and I did!) you will certainly love Dreaming of Flight.

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Did you miss my interview with Catherine Ryan Hyde
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Writing isn’t a calling; it’s a Doing!

Lillian Hellman said this. ‘If you hope to be any good, nothing you write will ever come out as you first hoped.’     It is true and if you are truly lucky it will happen to you.

In my novel, Women Outside the Walls, I have waited until Joe dies at Charlie’s hands to share with you the back story of how the last chapters of my book came to be.   How I experienced this lucky event of my book not turning out as I had first hoped.

In the play script version , this is where the story ends; Joe dying on the cold floor of a prison and Charlie’s line:  “I got you to find Chelsea, didn’t I?”  And this was where I had planned for the  novel to end too.

IF I had not been working closely with a woman who had ‘stood by her man’ for 15 years while he was in prison. Women Outside the Walls Shortly after he was paroled, her son received 13 years for manslaughter.  She has been there, done that, times two!  After SK (the woman outside real walls) read the last pages, she looked up and asked: “What happened to Charlie?  To Alma?”

I looked blank for a moment. I was, first and foremost, a playwright after all. Then replied, “do you think anyone would care?” She said, “Absolutely.  Is Charlie in a death penalty state?  Does Alma stick by him?” she asked.  And “By the way, what happened to Hattie and her kids?”

The problem was I had no experience with death row……BUT I did have SK, whose son narrowly avoided the death penalty when he  pled down from murder two to voluntary manslaughter.  SK never spoke of those dark days when she thought she would lose her son when the state executed him.  Now she was willing to speak of it with me.

Based upon her stories and the stories of her friends (other women outside the walls) I was able to write those
final chapters.  Did Charlie walk down that long hallway to the ‘needle’?  Was anyone there to witness his death?
You might be surprised.  And yes, what happened to Hattie and Kitty?

Try to explore everything you can about your characters’ lives.  Don’t leave a single road untraveled.  We all care about what happens to the villain!

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Book Review ~ Olivia Holmes Inherited a Vineyard

 4 out of 5 stars ~~ Book Review

In one of my recent searches for new authors to read (and maybe review) I bought this one by Mark Daydy. I wasn’t

 enamored of the title…too long, not very creative and certainly a spoiler alert. Why did the writer give away the plot of the whole story? I thought, ‘a much better title would been  Vineyard in the Moonlight or Grapes to Glass or The Vines. I could go on and on about the wrongness of the title but instead of giving it a pass, I bought the book. 

Next I’m not a fan of a man writing chick lit (fiction for women). They simply don’t have the empathy to write about women for women. I scoffed but ran my credit card anyway. 

I’ve been eating crow with each page that I turned.  This was an excellent story, with well drawn characters.  There was a certain crispness that I don’t find with female authors, much as I luv ’em.  My only critique was that Olivia was a bit ‘wishy-washy’ at times. It would have been a stronger story if she had been more decisive about (for example) leaving her job. She could have done it sooner in my opinion.  But what PANACHE! when she finally did it!  

I’m looking forward to reading the sequel very soon.  

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Review ~~ Sunday at the Sunflower Inn

5 out of 5 stars   ~~   Book Review

First page, first sentence, the reader meets McCoy and is hooked.  A broke-down, wounded, homeless handsome cowboy. Who can resist?  This new book is part of the “Honey Creek” series. 
   
The other characters in this story are equally empathetic and interesting. Jam, Tucson, Pecos, Pop Sadler, to name just a few. My only criticism (if you can call it that) is I would have liked more paper and ink dedicated to McCoy’s story. 

This is a story of small town, USA; Honey Creek.  Infused with colorful and interesting characters that only Jodi Thomas can serve up. 
The writing is supurb…it is Jodi Thomas after all. 

On Sale: April 26, 2022
Did you miss my Interview with Jodi? 

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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    October: Life Coach, shaman, author, Jennifer Monahan, November: Susanne O’Leary, December: Mimi Mathews, February: Jennie Goutet
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How Protagonists Engage Readers….or Not

What’s the secret?  Why does one protagonist immediately engage the reader when another is slow to achieve this or never does?  I recently read two novels, back to back, (it sounds like I read sporadically; not true, I have a book in my hand 24/7). 

Anyway, back to my point…..one book (Growing Season by  Melinda Foster) had a single woman, late 30’s, who’s life falls apart.  Long time relationship ends suddenly, and she is found to be redundant at her job of 14 years with the same company. (Most of us can relate to some or all of this.) She is called away to her home town to help family with the business and a small farm.  She was immediately empathetic due to the excellent writing and character development. 

The other book, House on the Harbor by Elizabeth Bromke was not engaging. The four sisters, Kate, Amelia, Megan, and Clara came across as mealy-mouthed and victims. Yep, all four of them. Maybe if the development of the characters had been stronger. Maybe if the author had the reader spend more time with each sister. And the house on the harbor was a non-entity. The house should have been the fifth character.   At first glance, they have  each inherited 1/4 of the house. At first glance….

But this reader didn’t care about any of these women.  I kept speaking to them: “put your big girl panties on and move forward!”  I did finish the book but felt relieved when I had, not satisfied. 

What’s the secret?  Good writing, finely drawn characters, people the reader can relate to.  
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Book 1 in series

 

 

 

 

Conclusion: Interview with Regency Author, Jennie Goutet

Author, Jennie Goutet

Q. What makes a writer great?

JG. There is natural talent, of course. But I think what makes a writer great is being able to handle critique and to incorporate the good critiques into future works – to constantly learn and grow in the craft.

Q. and the all-important: What does the process of going from “no book” to “finished book” look like for you?

JG. I get a rough idea and write a few chapters that I love. Then I crash and don’t know what to do next so I call my development editor and we talk through the ideas. I write a really skeletal first draft and hate it. Then read through and think it’s not quite so bad. I get my critique partners to have a look and take their advice. I edit again then send it to the developmental editor in completed form (or at least at 80%). I edit again on the computer then on paper and send it to the line editor. I edit again with her changes and do text to voice to catch repeats or strange wording. Then I read it on my kindle to see it as a reader would before sending it to the proof editor. In the final stages, I send it to early readers who catch all the typos and other mistakes no one else caught. Then it’s ready to go out.

Q. How has your life experiences influenced your writing?

JG. I’ve lived in a lot of places. I’m curious about human nature. I observe. I’ve suffered from the darker things like grief and depression. I’ve known wild joy and adventure. I think my characters come to life from what I’ve experienced.

Q. What’s your down time look like?

JG. This is a weakness of mine. I do not have down time. I work all day on writing or the other aspects of the business (marketing, social media, production, translation, audio), then make dinner and listen to my teens talk about their day. On the weekend I’m doing ministry stuff. (We serve the teen ministry). I know this is just a phase, though – these teen years – so I’m okay with it. I really enjoy reading in bed at night. And we go away a few times a year, which is great. Sometimes I take a walk by the Seine river, or visit a friend, or go into Paris, but there is no regular downtime.

Q. Have you or do you want to write in another genre`?

JG. I’ve written contemporary romance. A Noble Affair was my first novel and it’s not the finest in terms of literature but it was good practice for a full-length fiction work. And A Sweetheart in Paris is a decent book, I think, but it hasn’t attracted much attention. I’ve written a memoir as well, Stars Upside Down. I think if I were to switch genres I wouldn’t stray far. Georgian or Victorian as opposed to Regency. But I really love what I write.

Q. Note to Self: (a life lesson you’ve learned.)

A. Well, this won’t be relatable to everyone, but my main life’s lesson is that when I draw my last breath my books won’t matter. Only my relationship to God will. So I need to make sure that success doesn’t go to my head and that failure doesn’t destroy me. I am just God’s kid, and He’ll make sure I have all I need.

Did you miss Part 1 or Part 2?
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    October: Life Coach, shaman, author, Jennifer Monahan, November: Susanne O’Leary, December: Mimi Mathews, February: Jennie Goutet
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Interview with France based author, Jennie Goutet (part 2)

The summer Alps

Q. What does it feel like to be an American writer, living in France, writing in an English, historic romance genre. (Special challenges? Funny stories?)

JG. I can usually forget about where I live when writing my Regency England books. But it can be tricky when translating the books, especially when the Napoleonic wars are portrayed. My latest book was set in Waterloo and we all know how that turned out for the French. I’ll be putting a disclaimer in the front and the back of the book for that one. (Oui, oui, I love my adopted country). Otherwise, I think it helps for the historical details. I have a much easier time getting to the French chateaux, but they can easily inspire me much in the same way the English ones would were I able to visit them.

Q. Where/when do you first discover your characters?

JG. Sometimes I start out with a good idea of the character and who he or she is. At other times, I discover my character as I go. He or she takes control of the story and runs off with it in an unexpected direction.

Q. What first inspired you to write?

This blogger is a big fan!

JG. I had tried writing when I was younger. A handwritten book in the 8th grade, 10 chapters of a book that went nowhere when we were living in Africa, a fantasy book that I mapped out and abandoned. It was finally the freedom of writing for the sake of writing on my blog that allowed me to see how much I enjoyed written expression, and it was my memoir that allowed me to see that I could finish a book. From there I wanted to keep writing books but I had already told my own story. It was time to tell someone else’s.

Q. What comes first to you? The Characters or the Situation?

JG. It truly depends on the book. I might start with Character: ‘I want to tell the story of a woman who keeps her poise when faced with a series of difficult situations’ (A Fall from Grace); or Situation: ‘I want to tell the story of an arranged marriage where the bride is furious to be sold off and the husband is feeling sheepish about having arranged it’ (His Disinclined Bride); or it could be that I know the character from previous books and tackle Both: ‘I want to put shy, retiring Phoebe with her unrequited love through the fires of Brussels in 1815, which will show her just how strong she is.’ (A Daring Proposal). It just depends.

Q. Do you ‘get lost’ in your writing?

JG. I should say yes. That is what a proper writer is supposed to say. But no, not always. Sometimes it’s just a job and I have to get the word count in. Fortunately (for the reader, I suppose) there will always come a point when I am fully invested. But in terms of proportion of time spent getting lost, it’s a little less like first dates / falling in love and more like married for 25 years and still grateful – if that makes sense. Even if a lot of the writing feels like work, I do love it.

Q. Are you working on something now or have a new release coming up? If so tell us about it.

a trip to Rouen

JG. Right now I’m in the process of launching two season finales. A Daring Proposal is just released in the Memorable Proposals series. This is the one about Waterloo. And The Sport of Matchmaking is set to come out in May. This one is the last of the Clavering Chronicles series, and it’s fun and light in tone. There is a pretty strong contrast to A Daring Proposal, which is more about the deeper emotions. So now it’s time to start something new. I am in the process of thinking about a series. I’m working out the setting, the characters, the covers and the names, but it’s too early in the process to say anything because it might yet change.

Q. When did you begin to write seriously?

JG. I was a regular and invested blogger for years, but those were always short posts rather than the longer works. I published my memoir at the end of 1813 (Oh my gosh. That is how much of a Regency writer I am – I literally wrote that date instead of the 21st century) in 2013 and I have not looked back since.

Q. Do you think we will see, in our lifetime, the total demise of paper books?

JG. I’m not sure. If we increase bamboo production and start to use that instead, and start to reduce battery-operated small appliances … maybe we’ll keep paper? Unless the e-readers all become solar charged? I do think that the trend will be based more on the needs of the environment rather than readers’ preferences.

Did you miss Part 1 of our interview?
Join us for the conclusion next week. 

Did you miss my REVIEW of this author’s book?
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    October: Life Coach, shaman, author, Jennifer Monahan, November: Susanne O’Leary, December: Mimi Mathews, February: Jennie Goutet
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I Guess It’s All In the Writing…

What makes us, as readers, care about the characters in a book?  What is it about one book over another? I recently took a chance on a couple of new authors (to me) and was pretty disappointed. The books were like eating a slice of Wonder White Bread, with nothing on it; not even butter. Bland, tasteless and of little interest. 

Sophie was listless, I’m sorry to say with long run-on sentences. Beachcomber Motel was not interesting for a different and ‘deadly’ reason; the characters were not well drawn. They could have been more interesting; instead all three had been ‘done wrong’ by life. And quite frankly, I didn’t care about them. The love story of Jules didn’t develop until the last few pages and was more like: ‘Oh! I forgot to finish up Jules and Nick’s story.’  But, I misspoke, it wasn’t finished up but left the reader dangling mid-relationship with those two. Probably in the author’s hope that readers would be enticed to read a sequel.  Both of these are going to be a series, which I cannot recommend.  
  1 out of 5 stars 

This is beginning to sound more like a book review but hang in there….I will get to my point about writing. 

4 out of 5 stars

So I gave up on those two and cracked another new one; The Stationmaster’s Daughter.  I was instantly engaged and worried about Tilly and her dad, Ken, Ted and Annie. Of course, the setting didn’t hurt; a discarded railway station out in the wilds of Dorset. (UK)  Through no fault of her own, Tilly’s been kicked pretty hard by life. We find that out (artfully written) pretty soon after page one but with no feeling of being rushed.  Then there are flashbacks to 1935 when the trains were running in rural counties.

So no surprise, the difference is simple. It’s all about the writing. That something that a writer has in their storytelling that weaves a charming, enticing, well-drawn and interesting tale. This one’s about trains; I don’t care about trains except if they are on time and relatively clean. But the writer based the back story on trains in their heyday; the steam locomotion. And it was just enough that a reader like me didn’t grow weary with the history of trains.  It was well balanced with beautifully drawn characters. And the dialogue was excellent; I could hear their voices.             
It’s all in the writing. Full stop!
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    May: Jenny Colgan, June: Don Bentley writing for Tom Clancy, August: Veronica Henry, October: Life Coach, shaman, author, Jennifer Monahan, November: Susanne O’Leary, December: Mimi Matthews 
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